Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Raptor repeat

November 24th, 2007

SOMETIMES THEMES recur. Last week I wrote about barn owls and a couple of days later I was in Morayshire which is a part of the country I enjoy visiting, in no small part because of the contrast with the countryside here at home. I was walking in brilliant sunshine on the flat plain beside the coast where the RAF built its two air stations at Lossiemouth and Kinloss. But the dogs had been left behind at home this time.

Later, somewhere between Lossiemouth Air Station and Llanbryde (which sounds as if I was really in the depths of Wales) I sat in the dusk beside a pond with the unlikely name of The Banana (which is even more surreal) to watch duck flight in. Out of the gloom, flying practically at head level, appeared four short eared owls. Silent as ghosts, they were past me almost as soon as I realised what they were. I can't think that I've seen four all at once hunting almost as a pack.

Still on the subject of birds of prey a Perthshire farmer told me about two buzzards he came across feeding on a carcase at the road verge. He stopped and the birds were sweir to leave their meal, but flew off when he got out of his car. Their quarry was a hedgehog which they had turned it on its back and ripped open its soft underbelly, which is free of spines, to feed on the innards.

Some say that buzzards are scavengers and feed only on carrion and never kill prey on the wing. I've heard of buzzards plucking red squirrels from the bough of a tree and stories of them taking pigeons in the air. If the unfortunate hedgehog was a roadkill victim it would support the scavenger hypothesis. If it was attacked going about its lawful business crossing the road it would bear out the idea that buzzards are raptors. Perhaps, just to confuse us ordinary mortals, they resort to both means of catching their food.

I was tied to the computer all afternoon until I got a dunt under the elbow from Inka's nose to remind me that time was long overdue for the walk. I poked my own nose out of the door to see the state of the weather and it was pitch dark and sleeting. Prepared for the worst I got booted and spurred in the wellies and the waterproof overtrousers, as well as the waxed jacket and the tweed pickiesae. By the time I'd gone through all this palaver the sleet had stopped, the clouds cleared and we went for a fine walk in bright moonlight with a brisk wind to clear the head.

Folk dream of escaping from the Scottish winters. It's not escaping, it's running away. I wouldn't miss winter in Angus for the world.


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Comment from latest review in The Scots Magazine – “(Angus Whitson’s)… style is chatty, easy to read and, above all, informative.”

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Written on Saturday, November 24th, 2007 at 6:03 pm for Uncategorized, Weekly.